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Travels on the left

Paul Foot, 2 December 1993

John Strachey: An Intellectual Biography 
by Noel Thompson.
Macmillan, 288 pp., £27.50, May 1993, 0 333 51154 9
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John Strachey 
by Michael Newman.
Manchester, 208 pp., £12.99, September 1989, 9780719021749
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... born at the height of his father’s revolutionary fervour, was promptly put down for Eton. Noel Thompson calls his book ‘an intellectual biography’ and ignores the man altogether, as if the politician’s ideas can be cut clean away from the rest of his life. Strachey started out at the beginning of the century in a well-to-do Liberal ...

‘You are my heart’s delight’

Susannah Clapp, 7 June 1984

A Portrait of Fryn: A Biography of F. Tennyson Jesse 
by Joanna Colenbrander.
Deutsch, 305 pp., £12.95, March 1984, 0 233 97572 1
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... as one motive. Her best-known novel, A Pin to See the Peepshow, was based on the Thompson and Bywaters case, in which Edith Thompson was hanged with her lover for the murder of her husband. The book was published in 1934; it is an expansive, romantic novel, full of dresses and decor, which tells its story ...

Whose Candyfloss?

Christopher Hilliard: Richard Hoggart, 17 April 2014

Richard Hoggart: Virtue and Reward 
by Fred Inglis.
Polity, 259 pp., £25, October 2013, 978 0 7456 5171 2
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... some time ago. This is one of the ways in which Inglis’s book unexpectedly resembles Our Age, Noel Annan’s group portrait of the post-1945 great and good: new characters are introduced with a splashy description; rankings matter (so and so was the best sociologist of the time); there are frequent hints that the author knows the people being ...

Is It Glamorous?

David Simpson: Stefan Collini among the Intellectuals, 6 March 2008

Absent Minds: Intellectuals in Britain 
by Stefan Collini.
Oxford, 544 pp., £16.99, July 2005, 0 19 929105 5
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... public interest. Such a display of professional modesty speaks for a different time; similarly, Noel Annan’s model of a tightly related British intellectual aristocracy driving the national culture, and Edward Shils’s celebration of postwar Britain as a haven for intellectuals (‘Outside the China of the Mandarins, no great society has ever had a body ...

Cheesespreadology

Ian Sansom, 7 March 1996

Garbage 
by A.R. Ammons.
Norton, 121 pp., £7.50, February 1995, 0 393 31203 8
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Tape for the Turn of the Year 
by A.R. Ammons.
Norton, 205 pp., £8.95, February 1995, 0 393 31204 6
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Red Sauce, Whiskey and Snow 
by August Kleinzahler.
Faber, 93 pp., £6.99, April 1995, 0 571 17431 0
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The Unemployed Fortune-Teller: Essays and Memoirs 
by Charles Simic.
Michigan, 127 pp., £30, January 1996, 0 472 06569 6
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Frightening Toys 
by Charles Simic.
Faber, 101 pp., £6.99, April 1995, 0 571 17399 3
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The Ghost of Eden 
by Chase Twichell.
Faber, 78 pp., £6.99, April 1995, 0 571 17434 5
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... on the snot riddle in his book Rubbish Theory: The Creation and Destruction of Value, Michael Thompson explains that the riddle succeeds by playing upon that which is residual to our system of cultural categories. When, in the context of wealth and poverty, we talk of possessable objects we unquestioningly assume that we are talking about valuable ...

No more alimony, tra la la

Miranda Carter: Somerset Maugham, 17 December 2009

The Secret Lives of Somerset Maugham 
by Selina Hastings.
John Murray, 614 pp., £25, September 2009, 978 0 7195 6554 0
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... un-) disguised portraits of people he’d met and stories he’d been told. (Sadie Thompson, an American call-girl, appeared – name, fat legs and all – in the short story ‘Rain’.) It was a habit which left a ‘trail of angry people’. Maugham was born in 1874 in Paris, the youngest of four boys, to an English solicitor who looked ...

The Age of EJH

Perry Anderson: Eric Hobsbawm’s Memoirs, 3 October 2002

Interesting Times: A 20th-Century Life 
by Eric Hobsbawm.
Allen Lane, 448 pp., £20, September 2002, 0 7139 9581 5
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... there might be more to this story than appears is suggested by a puzzling absence: the name of Noel Annan, fellow and later Provost of King’s, a close friend, does not figure in it. If in principle such matters have their place in an autobiography, they are of slight moment otherwise. The main burden of Hobsbawm’s treatment of these years is ...

Lotti’s Leap

Penelope Fitzgerald, 1 July 1982

Collected Poems and Prose 
by Charlotte Mew, edited by Val Warner.
Carcanet/Virago, 445 pp., £9.95, October 1981, 0 85635 260 8
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... in fact, for Miss Harrison’s soppy side: the Brownings, the Brontës, Alice Meynell, Francis Thompson, Tagore’s ‘King of the Dark Chamber’ and ‘The Post Office’. When Charlotte Mew found her individual voice, all these influences persisted, just as her school friends remained her first and last refuge throughout her life. With them, there was ...

The Old, Bad Civilisation

Arnold Rattenbury: Second World War poetry, 4 October 2001

Selected Poems 
by Randall Swingler, edited by Andy Croft.
Trent, 113 pp., £7.99, October 2000, 1 84233 014 4
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British Writing of the Second World War 
by Mark Rawlinson.
Oxford, 256 pp., £35, June 2000, 0 19 818456 5
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... the Dardanelles to Dakar, to Cologne, to Italy’s underbelly, to the murder of Frank Thompson), or Spender’s lachrymose sense that his (exceedingly brief) Communism had threatened to destroy his individual identity. But fairly promptly the CIA would import such heavy weaponry as Lionel Trilling, with his banging declarations that Western ...

Diary

Alan Bennett: What I Didn’t Do in 2007, 3 January 2008

... often in soak on the draining board, fads as I thought even as a boy of ten, picked up from Miss Thompson, a herbalistic lady living in the Hallidays who used to give Dad burdock and suchlike ‘for his blood’. 21 February. On the 100th anniversary of his birth a lot of tosh being talked about Auden as poet of Cumbria. Auden couldn’t have inhabited his ...

Diary

Alan Bennett: What I did in 1998, 21 January 1999

... interests them isn’t the rood loft or the pews carved and dated 1641. They are on the trail of Thompson, the woodworker of Kilburn who always carved a mouse on his handiwork. Some of the pews are his, done in the Forties or Fifties, so somewhere here will be a mouse and they scuffle along the pews looking for it. Rather a silly quest, I ...

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